The Association of Bragg Officers' Spouses is having an interesting year.
Back in September, they decided to make 2012/2013 The Year of the Member. I wonder if they had any clue that this would also be the year that they denied membership to a fellow military spouse just because she happens to be married to another woman. The Year of the Straight Member, more likely.
Two unbroken rings: one to represent our commitment to marriage, the other our commitment to country.The hypocrisies abound. Let's just chose one and talk about the commitment to marriage.
Within our rings are two branches, an olive branch represents our prayer for peace and a laurel branch personifies the strife for success in all we do.
Outstretched hands symbolize our dedication to service.
A house, with an open door, embodies the families we care for and the familes we make when we move.
An open book exemplifies our personal and professional goals for which we strive.
All members of an Officer Spouses' Club (OSC) anywhere are married; it's part of the definition of spouse. Except that many OSC's make exceptions. I've known clubs to accept fiances and girlfriends; I've seen clubs add special rules to include separated or divorced spouses. You see, OSC's are not bound by a strict set of rules, though this particular group at Ft. Bragg would like us to think otherwise. So even if Ashley Broadway wasn't legally married, they could accept her membership.
As it happens, she and her wife were married on November 10, 2012 after DADT repeal made it possible for them to be open about their relationship. They have been a couple for 15 years - an example of a great marriage, even without the piece of paper.
Oh, that's right. They didn't deny her membership because she was a same-sex spouse; they denied membership because she doesn't have an active ID card... only that reason wasn't advertised until after Ashley requested membership; the requirement does not exist in the by-laws of the organization nor has the ABOS had time to vote on any change in said by-laws. According to Military.com, Ashley does have a caregiver ID card that would allow her base access to make purchases at the PX and Commissary and to access the Post for other things their son might need, like a visit to the doctor or to be dropped off at daycare. It's a work around solution for the family until the Obama Administration addresses the needs of all same sex couples in the military. It's a common solution already used for grandparents and extended family members who care for children while active duty soldiers are deployed.
Well, I know OSC's that have allowed members without ID cards as well. It's not that hard to do. In fact, since DADT repeal, other OSC's have had no problem accepting same sex partners in their organizations. Military.com interviewed an OSC member from the Combined Spouses' club at Goodfellow Air Base (combined means both Officer and NCO spouses can belong):
“We never thought it was something that specifically needs to be addressed – it’s not a big deal,” said Rachel Preen, the club’s parliamentarian. “We don’t ask who their spouse is in our application form, we don’t ask when they got married, we don’t ask to see a copy of your ID. As long as you pay your dues, fill out the form and turn up with an appetizer to the event, you're in.”Unfortunately, it seems to be a big deal at Ft. Bragg and maybe a few other locations, like Little Rock, Arkansas:
Bragg isn’t the only installation facing the question of whether same-sex partners should gain access to the clubs. The Little Rock Spouses’ Club on Little Rock Air Force Base in September denied membership to same-sex spouse Tanisha Ward, claiming that she must have an active-duty ID card to join.Again, back to that damn ID card. Let's face it, the people who are clinging to the ID card as an excuse ultimately do not support gays in the military nor do they believe that gay marriage should be legal. They might shake their heads wildly at my assumption and they may have convinced themselves that this really is about rule following. Sorry, folks. It's about hypocrisy, plain and simple. A small group of socially conservative women want everyone else to live by their religious dogma. They are the few that are scared that gay marriage somehow takes away from their own marriage. But they can't talk about that and here's why.
I've had 22 years experience as an officer's wife and rule number one to survival has been to stay quiet about three things - sex, politics, and religion. For social conservatives, gay marriage encompasses all three. So when you can't overtly discuss the issue, you have to cover your butts with an issue that makes sense, at least convoluted sense, to the people who are trying to convince themselves that they are right. All they need to do is look at their own crest - that ring that symbolizes marriage has nothing to do with the sex of the people who are married and everything to do with commitment to each other. That's what real marriage is all about.
When your reasoning fails, you are left with nothing. They know they don't have a leg to stand on. Thus, the ABOS has removed their Facebook page and has refused to answer questions from both Military.com and from Stars and Stripes. These women know they are on the wrong side of history but their religious belief won't let them back down. In fact, my guess is that we will see resignations from the board before we see the policy change.
All of you reading this know that Gay Marriage is an issue that goes beyond sex, politics, and religion. It's a civil right's issue and should be discussed as such. And membership in a private organization that meets on federal property is a civil rights issue as well. If any spouse of a military member has the right to belong to an OSC, all spouses of military members should have the right to belong. If not, then the OSC in question should lose its sanction to operate at the post where it resides.
This isn't my first experience with social conservatives and private organizations on military bases. I have seen a Homeschool Support group drop its statement of faith in order to remain operating on a military base due to the pressure of military homeschoolers who wanted to belong but were unwelcome because they were the wrong kind of Christians. Honestly, it would be refreshing if the ABOS would just come out and say it, "We opposed Ashley Broadway's membership because it would not fit with our definition of Christianity." Then we could have the real conversation - why is one brand of Christianity governing the decisions of a non-religious organization on a military base?
Do any of us have the answer to that?